Lo Hesse and Joachim Von Seewitz
Lo Hesse and Joachim von Seewitz were active in Munich and Berlin between 1916 and 1920. Their dances relied heavily on extravagantly exotic costumes designed mostly by the Munich expressionist artist Walter Schnackenberg (1880–1961), who also produced several charming art deco figurines of Lo Hesse (Schnackenberg; Arwas 214–216). The couple favored fantastically Oriental, Venetian, Spanish, or rococo costumes that had the effect of making dance a sign of ultrarefined luxury and exquisitely privileged voluptuousness. This linking of dance to fashion and fashionableness did not escape criticism. Hildenbrandt condemned Lo Hesse for appearing in fashion magazine poses behind the wheel of her Mercedes or with her sleek greyhound, and he deprecated the couple as "female and effeminate mannikins for a refined masquerade wardrobe" (Briefe, 50–51). However, Elegante Welt (6/1, 3 January 1917, 4–5) praised the "orgy of beauty" and "inclination toward the bizarre" created by the couple, as well as their lack of sentimentality. Seewitz was self-taught as a dancer, but the journal compared him favorably with the great Russian male dancers. In 1920, Ola Alsen, writing for the same journal (9/1, 7 January 1920, 7), maintained that he was "undoubtedly" the greatest of all male German dancers. Virtually all commentaries presented Lo Hesse as the decidedly inferior dancer of the pair. Nikolaus suggested that Hesse's sense of bodily rhythm was too measured and constrained, too lacking in boldness, whereas Seewitz, despite his elaborate costumes, moved with great freedom and showed enchanting skill in shifting abruptly from one rhythm to another, although all his movements seemed suffused with lyrical "boyishness" or undulant femininity; Hesse strove to keep up with Seewitz, but she was incapable of dramatizing any serious idea of "striving" (50, 74–76). Török in 1918 supposed that Hesse disguised her lack of talent behind a luxurious wardrobe, but he lauded Seewitz as an example of "pure fluidity," a dancer who almost seemed not to have a body (11).
Apparently Hesse achieved more satisfactory performance when she danced with Seewitz than when she danced her solos, but the two of them performed only a couple of dances together, the Moszkowski Masquerade and Weber's Invitation to the Dance, and these never delighted as much as Seewitz's solos. His most significant piece was probably Heliogabal (1919), a "terrifyingly beautiful masterpiece of pantomime" in which he evoked the perverse sun-worship ritual of the homosexual Roman emperor (KTP 4, 1920, 120). Here he displayed his effeminacy with stunning boldness: he swathed himself in a dark, satiny robe, which he opened up and discarded to reveal a "super-slender, quite lean" body decorated with pearl necklaces, earrings, slippers, bracelets, lipstick, mascara, a glittering blouse, and a gorgeous miniskirt. All of his movements were feminine insofar as
they consisted of serpentine undulations and narcissistic basking in his own refulgence. Imperial and cosmic power seemed concentrated in a "terrifyingly" ambiguous image of maleness. Seewitz also performed, in Pierrot costume, the "dancing fool" to Debussy's music and a "grotesque waltz in black" to music by Chopin, but his main achievement was to make the presumed "effeminacy" of the male dancer a more disturbing source of power than the term implies. However, he achieved this effect probably because he chose such a weak female dancer as his partner.